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Here are some amusing videos from YouTube for your weekend edification and enjoyment. The first shows a musical young man originally from Baltimore, Frank Zappa, on the Steve Allen Show in 1963. Frank plays the bicycle:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y9P2V0_p6vE

Zappa In 1959

For those with a limited knowledge of early television, Steve Allen was a former jazz DJ who was the first star host of the Tonight Show. He was a respected musical composer and also guest starred in the Superman newspaper strip as a lookalike for Clark Kent.

Frank seems somewhat shy yet articulate in this amusing sketch. Zappa was later busted in a police sting for making an allegedly pornographic audio tape; he spent several months in jail but had a successful career after that ordeal as the leader of the Mothers of Invention and other brilliant music endeavors.

Next, a 14-year-old Jimmy Page in 1957 plays skiffle on a British television show; the Hofner archtop guitar he plays seems as big as he is:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NfZ1AEdfd1o

Jimmy is the young man in the dark sweater and white shirt. He went on to play guitar in British music producer Mickie Most’s studio band, backing singles by Herman’s Hermits, Donovan and Brenda Lee. After that, he was in the Yardbirds and, of course, Led Zeppelin.

Young Jimmy Rocks

Onward we go, still in the late 1950s. We meet a pair of young singers working for various low-budget record labels in the New York City area. They recorded a lot of covers and a few of their own songs. Known professionally as Tom and Jerry, they struggled for years before splitting up. The guitar player and songwriter of the duo, Paul Simon, went to England by himself to try his luck. Art Garfunkel, the lead vocalist, stayed in the NYC area and concentrated on his college math studies.

Tom And Jerry

A record producer, Tom Wilson, liked a cut on their very obscure 1964 album, Wednesday Morning 3am, and on his own volition, had electric guitar, bass and drums added to Paul’s simple background guitar on the tune. He released this version in 1965 without the knowledge or approval of Paul or Artie and it became very popular. Columbia Records quickly got the duo back together to capitalize on the unexpected popularity of the song, Sounds of Silence, and Simon and Garfunkel became a best-selling musical team.

Here’s a sweet-sounding 1960 single by Tom and Jerry entitled Just a Boy:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iGXLjRBcXyo

Hawkaaaaaaaaaa!

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In the 1960s, there were a number of great superhero or adventure comic books featuring groups. There was the Justice League of America, the Fantastic Four, The X-Men, The Avengers, The Legion of Superheroes, The Doom Patrol, The Teen Titans, Sgt. Fury and His Howling Commandos, The Mighty Crusaders and others. I enjoyed all of them, but my favorite was Blackhawk.

Mighty Blackhawk

The Blackhawks first appeared as the lead feature in Military Comics in the the summer of 1941, before the attack on Pearl Harbor started World War II. They soon had their own comic book. The legendary Will Eisner had a hand in their beginnings; he was either editor or creator, depending on who tells the story. “Hawkaaaa” was their battle cry and they usually ended an adventure flying off the bottom panel of the comic-book page while singing a victory song.

If you want to learn much more about the origin of the Blackhawks, here’s a blog by a fellow Maryland WordPress blogger that is well worth your attention:

http://fourcolorglasses.wordpress.com/2012/06/11/the-origin-of-blackhawk-military-comics-1-august-1941/

Here are the first Military Comics and Blackhawk covers; the first Blackhawk comic was #9 because Quality Comics used their U.S. Postal permit from their cancelled Uncle Sam Quarterly:

First Blackhawk Appearance

First Quality Comics Blackhawk

After WWII ended, Military Comics changed its name to Modern Comics. Here’s the first cover with the new name:

First Issue Modern Comics

All these were issued by the Quality Comics company and the artwork was just wonderful. It was realistic, gritty and the Blackhawks had great uniforms and equipment. The airplanes alone were enough to draw one’s interest, though the stories were compelling; full of nasty men and women who were all defeated by the Blackhawks. The women were unfailingly attractive; and nearly all of them fell in love with Blackhawk, who was the Polish-born leader of the seven-man team.

Please know that the Quality-era Blackhawks weren’t politically correct if viewed with a 21st-century mindset; one of my buddies on a Lincoln history forum has a great quote worth remembering:

The Past is a foreign country . . . they do things differently there”

— L. P. Hartley

Screen Shot 2012-11-30 at 7.09.04 PM

In the panel above, the earnest young lady’s dad, who was making earthquakes and avalanches in South America for the benefit of the commie empire, is going to prison for life, but all she can think of is how cool Blackhawk is! Hawkaaaaaaaaaaa!!!

In 1956, Quality Comics sold the rights to their characters to DC Comics, and DC continued Blackhawk. Here’s the first DC issue:

First DC Blackhawk

Note that the comic-book title is singular but the team name is plural. The DC Blackhawk had the same artists and some of the same writers, but instead of fighting Nazis and commies, the Blackhawks were often fighting super villains and monsters. No matter; they were still a great read.

After a couple of years, DC decided to fiddle with the formula and the Blackhawks were clothed in what one commentator has described as uniforms better suiting valet parking attendants:

Blackhawk 199

The stories and art were still okay, but a couple of years later, during a strange comic-book interlude that began with the campy Batman TV show and the James Bond/Man from U.N.C.L.E. fads, the Blackhawks were turned into an embarrassingly inept group of semi-superheroes, with silly names and even sillier costumes. It didn’t last long and to make things worse, some of the big-time DC comics heroes introduced this horrible concept on the front cover!!!

Blackhawk 228

I refuse to show you the new uniforms the Blackhawks wore during this period. They are painful to behold.

After several terrible issues, the decision was made by the DC honchos to cancel the title.  At the same time, a talented artist and editor, Dick Giordano, came to DC from the Charlton Comics company. He loved the original Blackhawks and when he took over the comic, he tried for two issues to bring back the original concept, including the black leather uniforms. It was too little too late. Blackhawk was cancelled in 1968.

DC has had a few revivals of Blackhawk since then but they never seemed to catch on, for whatever reason.

So why am I telling you all this?

Because for several years I have had an idea for a great Blackhawks revival! It would be composed of a group of young black men and women, and I think the concept would be interesting and fun. I’ve given this a lot of thought and may well put it all down on paper one day and send it off to DC Comics.

Hawkaaaaaaaaaaaaa!!!

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